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41 Years Ago...Today... Vietnam

This is a discussion on 41 Years Ago...Today... Vietnam within the Your War forums, part of the Armed Services category; It started May 19th, 1968... Ho Chi Minh's Birthday Party! The Night the Camp Evans Ammo Dump Exploded!!! Camp Evans(Phong Dien) was a large U.S. ...

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Old May 19th, 2009, 10:09 AM   #1
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41 Years Ago...Today... Vietnam

It started May 19th, 1968...
Ho Chi Minh's Birthday Party!
The Night the Camp Evans Ammo Dump Exploded!!!

Camp Evans(Phong Dien) was a large U.S. base off Highway 1 halfway between Hue City(and Camp Eagle at Phu Bai)and Trang Tri City...the Northern-most City in South Vietnam, just short of the DMV... all in I Corp, the Northern-most Province of the Four Provinces of South Vietnam...
I had only been settled in with my unit, the 2nd Bn, 7th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division... for about a month...
Camp Evans was crammed with the 1st Cav and supporting units of all kinds, and many other units also...
It was so big, there was little chance of it getting over-run, but Charlie did test the Green Line Perimeter on a regular basis...
We were fairly comfortable there, at least compared to our Line Companies that lifted off Evans to progressively smaller and smaller LZ's, some that were re-occupied and re-abandoned in about 24 hours...
We were used to nightly Mortar and RPG attacks...but Camp Evans was so large a guy would just listen to the 'Incoming' and decide if it was 'ok' to go try to take a shower anyway...
It really was annoying to have to run out of a shower all wet and run like hell to a bunker!
Anyway...May 19th...here came the usual 122mm Rockets...Whistle-ing In...Then we heard the impact towards the center of the Camp...Then the usual yells from the Div Arty that was next to us...turning their guns toward the A Shau and waiting for confirmation of a return fire mission...Birds Cranking Up...Just the Usual Buzz of Activity.
Then...Sirens, and the Sound of Explosions...
But No More Incoming!?
Then More and More Explosions of different sizes and volumes...the Word quickly spread...The Ammo Dump Was Hit!
The Ammo Dump at Evans was huge! It served not only the 12,000 Man First Cavalry Division but all of our Air Support (227th, 228th) and likely was the primary ammo dump for all smaller units with 20 miles...
Our Line Companies had just been on a mission to the A Shau Valley and had brought back TONS of captured NVA Ammo and Guns...and stored them in the Ammo Dump!
The Dump was heavily Bermed...but still...
It Went On for HOURS...even Days later stuff was still cooking off...
When Large Amounts of Ammo go off...it sometimes create a Fire Ball and Cloud that very much resembles an Atomic Bomb detonation...it went like 3 Miles Up in the Air! THAT scared the poop out of us for a while...eventually due to our fine Basic Training CBR Training...We decided since we were still alive...it was NOT an A-Bomb!
As a lot of the ammo cooked off...Rounds of All Calibers were flying through the air...and obviously Tracers were easy to watch! Large Artillery Rounds were exploding and we were trying to look and still keep our butts down in the dirt...
The Ground Kept Shaking...and once every so often you would feel a specific Impact...some close, and Some Closer...
Some Exploded on Impact...most did not...just depending on what it was...
We were monitoring up to 7-8 different frequencies on our PRC-25's...Division, Brigade, Battalion and 5 Line Companies...Everybody who was Off Camp Evans...wanted to know what the hell was going on! All Incoming Air Traffic was diverted away...they could see us for miles around...
We started getting casualty reports...guys were getting killed just from artillery rounds(not armed) going through the PSP on their bunkers! Not to mention direct hits from rounds...
CS Gas was set off! So Here We Were...Not being allowed to get into the bunkers...because we were supposed to be ready for Charlie and his Sappers to come through the Wire on our side of Camp Evans! So We were wearing our Steel Pots, and Flak Vest, and fully armed, with Ammo dripping off of us...one hand on our on Gas Mask Pouches...trying to get Lower than Snake Poop Everytime We Heard a Whistle Coming Our Direction!
I have to say...ONE of the very worst nights of my 14 Months in RVN...
There were a number of casualties that night...and since I was not one of them...I have been extremely thankful for that and I have many times thought of those who were KIA that night, and yes, grieved for them, and mourned them...and reflected on the Random-ness of such things...and lifted a glass to them...God Bless Them!

Something like 10 Million Pounds of Ammo went up that night...
The next morning in daylight...we found just behind us, not more than 100 feet...a large crater...with a very large artillery shell at the bottom, Un-Exploded!
That was one of the Close Impacts We felt in the dark...
If it had been any closer, if it had detonated, or been some other kind of round that would have detonated...all of my friends and I would have been gone too...
Afterwards...they decided the 'good aiming' had been due to one of the Camp Barbers! The scuttle-butt was that he was an NVA Captain, that he used to walk outside of the Barber Shop, up and down, back and forth, pacing and pacing between Haircuts...
That could all be so much BS...but on the other hand...it was almost always a mistake to underestimate the VC or NVA!
Not just Ammo was destroyed, but dozens and dozens of Helicopters of all sizes were either destoyed or very badly damaged...
It took Weeks just to clean the mess up...and we had very suddenly been made aware of the Uncertainty of Life in A Combat Zone!


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Old May 19th, 2009, 11:03 AM   #2
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Detonating Ammo Dumps!

Gotta hate that!
I'd heard horror stories from the old guys when I first came into EOD about the ammo dump disasters in RVN and the crazy methods used to police up those messes...especially if the VC had been nice enough to leave any extra special gifts behind for us EOD guys.
I got my own chance to deal with these fun messes in Kuwait, then the nasty one in Ikeja, Lagos http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/1787000.stm
then the various fun ones in Iraq like LSA Dogwood that unfortunately stemmed from poor storage of captured Iraqi WP munitions.
What a freaking mess! As someone who's also had to sit there and wait for it to "STOP BLOWING UP", you have my deepest respect and admiration. Well, that and you Cav guys are just silly too!

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Old May 21st, 2009, 01:01 PM   #3
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I was at Camp Evans earlyer in 1967 when the Army moved in it's first units. I remember the twin 40s and quad 50s raking the tree line at night. That was also my first encounter with night vision. The Army had it and we didn't. Thought it was neat to be able to see at night.

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Old May 21st, 2009, 01:11 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by polish29 View Post
I was at Camp Evans earlyer in 1967 when the Army moved in it's first units. I remember the twin 40s and quad 50s raking the tree line at night. That was also my first encounter with night vision. The Army had it and we didn't. Thought it was neat to be able to see at night.
Yeah, But You Had Your M14 !!!!

But Sometimes it was still better to have some rolling Quad-50's Between Charlie and You AND Your M14 !!!

But yeah...those 1st Gen Starlight Scopes were not perfect...but they darn sure could pick up a Sapper in the Wire! But then everytime a chopper buzzed over or somebody dropped a flare...You had to Cover the Front Lens Quickly or See Nothing for 5 Minutes!!!

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Old November 6th, 2009, 08:17 PM   #5
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Thumbs up I can remember !

I graduated from high school around that time .

My dates in country would be in 1970 ,with the 1st Marine Airwing !

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Old November 6th, 2009, 09:45 PM   #6
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11-6-1965.........laDrang valley.........45 years ago........but sometimes only yesterday..........llc
jeez.........can not even do math.....................

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Old November 6th, 2009, 10:56 PM   #7
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I was stationed out of Danang 70-71, the Army had taken over the old Navy hospital on the highway out towards Marble Mtn and the big pow camp, there was a Marine air base I think it was called MAG 16 right across the road. We often caught the short rounds designated for the Marines. I was in the 1098th Medium Boat Company, our boats were down at the harbor between Deep Water Pier and the Tien Sha Ramp run by the Navy. Out in the harbor were these huge barges, it seems like they were the size of a football field, the ammo ships would often come in and unload onto these barges, when the barge was empty the gunnel was a good 20-30ft above the water line, when they were fully laden, water lapped at the edge. Our company was often assigned guard duty on the barge and orders were to shoot swimmers in the water for obvious reasons, the company was also responsible for occasionally moving the barges and hauling them in to unload dunnage.
Just about every evening they would show a movie, the old hospital had a fairly decent outdoor screen, the square heads sat down below in chairs or benches drinking beer, etc. while the heads sat on the roof of the covered sidewalks surrounding the theater...It was a blast, everybody ripped and having as good a time as possible.
All of a sudden the screen flashes with a yellowish light, I turned around and from the roof I could see this tremendous ball of fire, that reminded me of pictures I'd seen of an atomic bomb, about the only thing I could think was "Holy Shit!" Somebody had the presence of mind to yell "Hit It!" and most of us flattened out on the roof, those on the ground hit the dirt, thats when the shock wave hit and it was impressive, followed immediately by the blast or maybe they happened at the same time, it was the most Godawful noise I've heard in my life, then and now. It seems Charlie finally got a satchel charge to go off and it was pretty impressive to see our 150ft LCU beached, caused quite a stir amongst the brass at Camp Perry, they had a front row seat. Some things you never forget and the sight of that fireball and the noise which is indescribeable, I've nearly been struck by lightening and that comes pretty close, but its over quicker.
In order to keep the spirit of this site in order I was designated rifleman on board our LCU, my weapon of choice...M14

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Old November 7th, 2009, 09:53 AM   #8
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Guys, after reading these stories I felt the need to say thank you for your service. My family and I dont take for granted what we have today. God Bless you all. Tim

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Old November 7th, 2009, 05:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by llcllc View Post
11-6-1965.........laDrang valley.........45 years ago........but sometimes only yesterday..........llc
jeez.........can not even do math.....................

We were Soldiers.....

Thank you for your service

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Old November 16th, 2009, 06:33 AM   #10
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Time shared June 68-70.......................

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Old October 25th, 2013, 06:33 AM   #11
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i was on guard duty that night, will remember for ever.

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Old October 25th, 2013, 07:30 AM   #12
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69/70 some of those craters still existed. 1st Cav, LRRP's, worked out of Camp Evans, then we went to Pleiku. Seen craters along the Ho Chi min Trail from Arc Strikes, that looked like the moon. I felt the concussion, and felt the ground move from some of those strikes and we were several Klicks, away. I can only imagine that dump going up, you guys, waiting for Charlie, to breach the wire that night, and surviving, all that ordinance, raining down. Welcome Home Brother

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Old October 25th, 2013, 10:48 AM   #13
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Yep. I was with several units as they stood down. I was there during the Easter Invasion.

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Old October 25th, 2013, 02:25 PM   #14
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Old October 25th, 2013, 02:44 PM   #15
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Thanks for allowing us to read that. Thank You for your service.

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